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Impact of Freud's Stages of Psychosexual Development on Formation of Id Ego and the Superego

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Two influential theorists in psychology are Freuds psychodynamics theory and Bowlby’s evolutionary theory of attachment. Both these theorists look at developmental psychology, this is something that looks at how thoughts and behavior changes throughout an individual’s life starting from childhood, most developmental changes occur during this time. The debate surrounding nature vs nurture is a long-lasting aspect of developmental psychology, in this debate nature is defined as something that determines our behaviour, personality and our ability through genetics, and nurture is where our upbringing and life experiences are thought to determine who we become as people.

Positive social and emotional development is essential, these are part of the development which influences an individual’s empathy, self-confidence and the ability to develop meaningful and lasting relationships. Also, developing a feeling of significance to those around them. In childhood social and emotional development quite often affects other parts of development. Starting from a young age, caregivers play a big role in a young person’s development as they tend to have the most dependable relationship. Sometimes developments don’t progress as was initially thought. Freuds thoughts were that if we were to become fixated at an early stage of psychosexual development this would determine our personalities and character traits later in life, if one became fixated in the oral stage which means they get comfort orally then later in life they may become big drinkers, eaters or even smokers as they struggle with dependency.

Bowlby believed that early attachment would later influence romantic relationships and our parenting skills, he sees attachment as monotropic, this is where children tend to form an attachment to a single person. This attachment is believed to create a model for relationships in the future, which the child may expect from others. Freuds theory of Psychodynamic has been based on the thought that the different parts of a person’s mind conflicts with one another wanting different things. These parts of the mind are called the Id, the ego and the superego these are developed during childhood in the stages of psychosexual development, the five stages are oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital. The id is powered by something called the ‘pleasure principle’, which makes every effort for instant fulfilment of all that is wanted, desired and needed, this aspect of personality is completely unconscious and is something that is present from birth. The ego works in a way that is based on the ‘reality principle’, which tries to fulfil the id’s desires in the most appropriate ways.

The reality principle works out the pros and cons of an action before deciding whether to follow through with the id’s desires or not. The ego works in the conscious, preconscious and unconscious mind this usually develops during the oral stage of psychosexual development. The superego is the final part of an individual’s personality to develop, it is the aspect that helps us see right from wrong. Like the ego, the superego works in the conscious, preconscious and unconscious mind and develops in the phallic stage of the psychosexual development. During the phallic stage is when the Oedipus and the Electra complex is thought to occur, Freuds thoughts were that Boys develop sexual desires for their mother and they want rid of their father to enable them to have their mother all to themselves. On the other hand, he thought that girls had desires for their father which was thought to develop the desire to become a boy, later repressing her thoughts and spending more time with her mother being part of the female gender role. Freud sits on the nature side of the nature vs nurture debate.

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Freuds Case study of Little Hans was developed in 1909 when Little Hans’ father approached him about Hans developing a fear of horses. Hans father was a supporter of Freud so when Hans developed his fear his father referred him straight on to him. Freud decided to help and went on to believe Hans’ fear was down to occurrences in his unconscious mind. Freud used the case study of Little Hans to support his views on where fears originate from, the Oedipus complex and sexuality during childhood. Freud thought Hans’ fears alongside his dreams and fantasies symbolised his unconscious mind passing through the phallic stage of psychosexual development. During the time of the study Hans’ was thought to have developed anxiety surrounding leaving the house in case he saw a horse; this would have impacted his emotional development. Some of the weaknesses for the study are that Hans’ father knew of Freud and his theories before approaching him maybe tailoring his answers and studies so that they fit into Freuds psychosexual aspect of his psychodynamic theory.

Another weakness being that Hans’ fear could have developed when he witnessed a horse dying in the street as a child. Some strengths to this study are that Hans was afraid of things that resembled his father and he dreams about his mother resulting in him no longer allowed to stay in his parent’s bed presenting the jealousy aspect. Bowlby’s evolutionary theory of attachment focuses on the relationships between people and the bond they may have, mainly looking at the start of childhood and the attachment between caregivers and their children. Some of the concepts included in Bowlby’s theory are Monotropy, the internal working model, the Critical period and Maternal deprivation. Monotropy is the idea that infants have an innate ability to attach to a single caregiver, Bowlby suggested that if this bond did not happen then it could lead to possible negative consequences leading into adulthood. Bowlby suggested that the critical period is the time before the child becomes two and a half, this is when a child should have formed an attachment by, or the child will not develop attachment at all. Bowlby used the term Maternal deprivation to refer to separation from mother and child in the first 5 years of their life resulting in no attachment.

The internal working model is a term used for how people feel about themselves, the development of this begins from a young age and is determined by the interactions the child would have had from people surrounding them. An example of this would be if a child grew up with little to no interaction from their primary caregiver whom was very distant and negative then said child would develop a negative working model with the belief they are not good enough and on the flip side if a child grew up in a caring and loving environment they would be more likely to develop an internal working model that would end in success and would heighten their self-esteem. Bowlby sits on the nature side of the nature vs nurture debate. Bowlby’s 44 thieves’ study was developed in 1944. Bowlby believed that the disturbance of the relationship between the mother and her child in the first 5 years of life may lead to a higher rate of crime, antisocial behaviour and difficulty with emotions as this time is most important to socialisation. To test his theory of maternal deprivation he studied 44 young thieves alongside 44 others who had been referred to him with emotional issues. Each of the children’s IQs were tested and they also had their emotional attitudes towards the IQ assessed by a psychologist.

A social worker interviewed the parents to find out if there was any separation from the child in the early years. Reports were made from both the psychologist and the social worker on the findings of their interaction with the children and their parents, Bowlby then had interviews with the children and parents, diagnosing 32% of the thieves with affectionless psychopathy. Bowlby concluded that more than half of the young offenders had been separated from their mothers for some time during the first 5 years of their lives, whereas the group of children that had been referred to him with emotional abuse only had 2 cases of separation during this time. The separation seemed to have caused problems with social development as it would seem that the youths that thieved were potentially attention seeking as they missed out on some in the critical period. One of the strengths of this study is that it backs up his deprivation hypothesis, it also backs up that deprivation can lead to emotional issues. One of the weaknesses of this study is that it could be classed as unreliable as it would have been reliant on memories. To conclude two theories of development have been considered, Freud’s theory of psychodynamic and Bowlby’s theory of evolution. The most influential theorist is Bowlby as his theories have contributed so much to our knowledge of attachment and how important it is whereas Freuds theories haven’t got much evidence and are quite outdated.

  1. Cherry K, 14/07/2019, Freuds psychosexual stages of development
  2. Mcleod S, 05/02/2017, Bowlby’s attachment theory
  3. Cherry K, 28/09/2019, Freud’s Id, Ego, and Superego

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Impact of Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Development on Formation of Id Ego and the Superego. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 29, 2023, from
“Impact of Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Development on Formation of Id Ego and the Superego.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022,
Impact of Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Development on Formation of Id Ego and the Superego. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Jan. 2023].
Impact of Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Development on Formation of Id Ego and the Superego [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 14 [cited 2023 Jan 29]. Available from:
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